PHILIPSBURG--Acting Prime Minister Egbert Doran says “a different approach” will be taken to resolve the issue with the payment of vacation allowance for teachers.
He made the remarks in response to a question about a letter Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) President Stuart Johnson sent to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs on August 9, urging her to end the discrimination that was created when some teachers received their vacation pay and some did not.
“I have not seen the letter or received the letter; however, it is a discussion that has been ongoing. I had a meeting with the Minister of Finance [Ardwell Irion – Ed.] yesterday [Tuesday] and we are going to take a different approach in addressing this issue and I look forward before the end of the week for an update to come to the public from the government,” Doran explained.
“It has our full attention and I know that it is a very uncomfortable situation for the teachers and I understand their concerns; and I want to reassure you that it has definitely our full attention – my full attention in addressing it. So, hopefully by the end of this week, latest Monday, the public will be made aware; or let us just put it like this – the relevant stakeholders, which will be the school boards, will be made aware of a potential solution and how we can resolve this matter, because it needs to be resolved,” Doran stated.
In his letter, entitled, “Discrimination created among the teachers with non-payment of vacation allowance to subsidize school”, Johnson said, “As President of the WITU, I would like to bring the following to your attention, requesting your intervention in this matter to bring equality, peace and tranquillity among the teaching fraternity in our beloved country.
“As we stand at the beginning of the new school year 2022-2023, the board of WITU is deeply concerned about the fact that to date the teaching and non-teaching staff employed at the various government-subsidized school boards, with the exception of the Protestant Christian Schools (3%), have not received their vacation allowance as yet.”
Johnson continued in his letter, stating, “In representing and looking after the best interest of all concerned, WITU held various meetings with the stakeholders to come to a consensus and solution as it pertains to the vacation allowance that was paid since June 15, 2022, to civil servants and employees of public education.
“Needless to say, this has created a sense of discrimination and lack of equality in the education field to teaching and non-teaching staff. Even though WITU can empathize with the school boards, the fact is that one school board has paid 3%. Additionally, the remaining school boards can pay the full 6% once they receive the written instruction from the Council of Ministers to conduct this payment opposed to the 12.5% law that is not retracted as yet, creating much labour unrest and demotivation,” Johnson stated.
He said a precedent has been set for this payment and although school boards are not to be solely blamed, WITU is the key representative of the teaching and non-teaching staff.
“Since the school boards are legally accountable for their personnel expenditure, it cannot be that after receiving a letter from the Ministry of Education a couple of months ago with a clear semblance of an instruction, now that there is a change of execution of the law, that this has not been communicated to one single school board in writing. The Board of the WITU is therefore urgently appealing to you to end this discrimination by whatever form of communication that would bring a solution in this matter,” Johnson concluded.